Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lamentation and Sorrow in IWU's "Trojan Women"

It's easy to understand why Euripides' "Trojan Woman" keeps being revived and retooled, some 2400 years after it first hit the stage in Athens. Over the centuries, there have always been wars. And in those wars, women and children -- AKA "collateral damage" -- have always been among the hardest hit.

Euripides didn't give his "Trojan Women" much of a plot. Instead, he let his female characters voice their lamentations and suffering from beginning to end. No down time here. All fury, grief and pain. He focused on three specific women and their stories -- Cassandra, the prophetess no one believes, crazed and undone; Andromache, wife of slain Trojan hero Hector; and Helen, the beautiful cypher at the center of the conflict -- with Hecuba, the Queen of Troy, and a chorus of women watching as their city burns and they are divvied up and given away as spoils of war.

Thomas Quinn directs "Trojan Women" for Illinois Wesleyan's McPherson Theatre, serving up a vivid, theatrical production with striking stage pictures. Hallie Zieselman's scenic design opens up a stark playing space that looks like bare stone and ash with a little hanging moss for atmosphere, and her aggressive lighting design splashes color and shadow across the stage, adding dramatic ebb and flow. Bridget Galvin's costumes, all ruddy browns and grays for the mourning women, with Helen glowing in white and gold, create the right mood, while Antonio Gracias's portentous sound design adds yet another layer of drama.

Among the players, Allyson Moravec and her maternal Hecuba stand out, with good commitment from Britta Whittenberg, Marlee Turim and Brooke Trantor as Andromache, Kassandra and Helen, respectively. Second-grader Dalton Spalding is sweet and heart-breaking as Hecuba's grandson, Andromache's son, the smallest victim of all the violence of the Trojan War.

This isn't a pleasant play, and it may require a bit of background reading on the Trojan War and its characters to really understand who's saying what about whom. But even if you don't really know your Achaeans from your Dardanoi, the basic idea that these women have suffered terribly will come across loud and clear.

Trojan Women
By Euripides. Translated by Diskin Clay.

IWU McPherson Theatre

Director: Thomas Quinn
Scenic & Lighting Designer: Hallie Zieselman
Costume Designer: Bridget Galvin
Sound Designer: Antonio Gracias

Cast: Josh Conrad, Michael Holding, Angela Jos, Lily Lowell, Zach Mahler, Allyson Moravec, Christine Polich, Roz Prickel, Amily Smith, Dalton Spalding, Amy Stockhaus, Andrew Temkin, Ally Torres, Brooke Trantor, Marlee Turim, Britta Whittenberg, Laura Williams, Parker Wood.

Running time: 1:50, performed without intermission

Remaining performances: February 16-19 at 8 pm and February 20 at 2 pm.

Box office: 309-556-3232


  1. I love this play. What an amazing thing to come down to us from the time of Euripides: just "what happens to the survivors and widows after the war is over." One would have thought that this was an essentially modern notion, and yet here he is writing it at the dawn of recorded drama.

  2. What's amazing to me is how critical of the Greeks it is and that Euripides survived after writing this play. These specific events were hundreds of years distant from them, but the behavior is the same, and it was still going on when the play was written. Somebody had to notice the criticism.

    I should also note that I am not a big fan of the play as a play, mostly because it doesn't have much in the way of ups and downs. It's all at one level of, well, wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth. This was the first production I've seen that actually made it seem alive and compelling. The music and lighting really gave it some punch and an arc.